Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
What does Baptism have to do with making disciples? Let’s start by looking closer at the formula for Baptism Jesus gives us. We are to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Sometimes when we say we do something in the name of someone, it means that we are doing it for them–we have been duly authorized. That is certainly the case when Jesus’ disciples use Christian Baptism. They have been sent and authorized.
But there is more to it than that. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul points out that none of them were baptized into his name, as though he were the Savior. In Romans he says that we have been baptized into Christ Jesus and into his death. In other words, baptism creates a connection–a connection between us and the Triune God Jesus mentions here.
He emphasizes the blessing and promise of that connection by including the word “name.” God’s name, as you know, is more than just his titles. It’s the blessings and saving truths those names call to mind. Your good name is more than just the letters of the alphabet you put down in your signature, the sounds people make when they want to get your attention. It is your reputation–the things people associate with you, whether good or bad. Baptism connects us with the names of God and all that they stand for. It soaks us not just with water, but with our Lord’s every grace and blessing.
Baptism, then, connects people to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit by faith. We don’t have three Gods but one. Scripture is clear enough about that. We don’t baptize in the name of three unequals, one God and two other things. You wouldn’t name a law firm Williams, Smith, and Young if Williams were an attorney, Smith his secretary, and Young the maintenance man. You don’t name Father, Son, and Holy Spirit like this, and baptize in their name, if they don’t stand on equal footing. Yet the distinction between each of these three persons in our one God helps us understand even more the invaluable benefits of being connected to him.
Jesus’ disciples enjoy God as their Father. Like all people, they owe their very existence to him. But unlike the rest of our world, they are sure of his faithful, parental love and providence. They live in the security of his protection. My children never worried day to day whether we would feed them. There was no question in their mind that we would do everything in our power to protect them. They were secure in knowing this is so. In baptism Jesus’ disciples have the promise that God is not merely the Father. He is our Father– a God who doesn’t want to scare us, but take care of us and make us secure.
In Baptism Jesus’ disciples are also connected to God the Son, who became one of us and stood by us and died as one of us to save us. Doesn’t that make the truth that Jesus, the Son, is God in human flesh more than a fact that we learn and defend, but a beautiful, winsome thing we want to believe?
God lovingly made the world, and made mankind, only to have his creation rebel against him. In response he didn’t destroy them and start over. He joined them as a man without joining their rebellion. He let them kill him, so that by his death he could pay the due penalty for their rebellion. God made himself so lowly, and suffered so much, so that forgiveness would be more than a nice sentiment. It would be founded on his sacrifice. He came to us so that he could make a way for us back to him. You will not find a god who loves like that described in any other holy book or any other world faith. It is the unique understanding of those who are baptized as Jesus’ disciples.
All of this is brought to us by the quiet work of the Holy Spirit. He comes to us in our baptisms as he came down in Jesus’ baptism. When Jesus comes knocking on our heart’s door, the Holy Spirit is standing next to him with the key. And he unlocks it and gently pushes it open for Jesus to enter. All of these blessings of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit come pouring over us in the waters of our baptisms. That is why it plays such an important part when we go to make disciples.